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Kent State Faculty Get Bonuses for Meeting Goals


Kent State University is offering financial bonuses to professors if they help student retention numbers and attract more research dollars, an incentive usually given to school presidents and top administrators.

Beginning this semester, 864 faculty members at Kent State stand to gain from a “success pool” if university goals are met for student retention and landing research grants and foundation money. The university, about 30 miles southeast of Cleveland, has eight campuses and 34,000 students.

“This is America. We live in a country that suggests extra effort should be rewarded,” Kent State President Lester A. Lefton said Tuesday.

Professors would share 10 percent of the growth in research dollars and 2 percent of growth in fundraising beyond threshold levels. Payments split equally among the faculty could total several hundred dollars per faculty member for double-digits gains.

Professors would share 40 percent of additional revenue when the freshman retention rate goes up 0.5 percent on the main campus.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which follows campus trends across the country, called the goal-based incentive plan a new and unusual tactic. Kent State and faculty union leaders knew of no similar programs elsewhere.

The bonuses are in addition to negotiated 3 percent annual pay raises in a new three-year contract that began in August. Professors who get the bonuses also are eligible for merit-pay raises.

The “success pool” is meant to encourage faculty involvement in keeping students and attracting more grant and foundation money.

“There are some people who might put out a little more effort if they felt they would be rewarded for it,” Lefton said.

Tim Smith, a Kent State journalism professor and first vice president of the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which negotiated the contract, said he supported the bonuses but was concerned that the retention provision might prompt professors to lobby to keep students who aren’t prepared.

And some professors don’t teach freshmen and would have little opportunity to coach them to stay in school, he said.

Gina Spencer, 26, of Euclid, a Kent State graduate student and nonvoting university trustee who wasn’t involved in the contract negotiations, predicted the incentive program would have a positive impact on campus.

“This kind of contract is going to foster more of a nurturing relationship with faculty and students and the students’ response to the university,” she said.

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